gym

Keep on Keeping on

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”
– Edward Stanley

I am a little annoyed with my body today.  Not in the typical female-picking-myself-apart way; but in the I-can’t-believe-I’m-F-ing-sick-this-is-totally-cramping-my-style way.  I spent most of my morning trying to convince myself I am fine and didn’t catch anything, but just finally broke down and bought some pseudophed.  Apparently, a fit lifestyle is not a free ticket to completely avoiding illness… bogus, right?

What?! That's right! All done with week 1.

In reality, I should be glad I have avoided getting sick this long, especially when everyone at work has been calling out with the flu ever since the new year rolled around.  However, I’m am hoping I can still head it off now that I have drugs, especially since I took a power nap today.

I can tell you one thing though, this icky sinus thing DID NOT keep me from my workout this morning!!!!  That means I am finished with week 1 of INSANITY. (woot woot!)  The workouts definitely get harder the more of them you do, and I think it’s primarily from your muscles getting fatigued.  I definitely found the cardio pylo harder today than I did the first time I did it, but that could be partly because my body is too busy fighting off this bug to cooperate…  I still got through more reps than Adam though, so that made me feel a little better. 😉  (In his defense, he’s chronically sleep deprived, and I give him props for doing it with me two days in a row now… especially when he knows I’m going to make him look bad. j/k)

It was SO NICE out today that I was more than a little bummed about napping instead of running, but I think it was for the greater good.  I would rather miss one run than get more sick and miss work.  Plus, I want to get over this thing and back to pushing 100%.  I am just keep telling myself that spring is around the corner, and there will be many more beautiful running days.  It’s so hard when you have that itch to get out there though!!!

Tomorrow is a rest day for Insanity, and I have to work (no boot camp for me 😦 ).  That means rest day in general- probably the only one this week.  Unfortunately I can only make one boot camp session this week (it would be none if I didn’t end up swapping  a day), but at least I will have Insanity… and –fingers crossed– some running!

I guess I could try to...

PS. Mike- even being sick, Insanity was STILL not harder than boot camp today.

I am an Addict…

“I do it as a therapy.
I do it as something to keep me alive.
We all need a little discipline.
Exercise is my discipline.”
-Jack LaLanne
I would like to dedicate this post to my boot camp family…
Ladies and Gentleman,
I am addicted to boot camp.  Just in case you are worried you might be an addict to, I have complied a list of signs and symptoms to assist you in recognizing it.
1)  You spend most of your waking hours thinking about boot camp.
2)  You know how many hours it’s been since your last session and how many until your next one.
3)  You find yourself trying to schedule the rest of your life around your workouts.
4)  Everyone you know is aware that you do boot camp, including what days of the week you go.
5)  At least one person has mentioned how much you talk about boot camp and/or asked you to stop bringing it up
6)  You have tried to convince all your Facebook friends and coworkers to join, and have dragged at least one in person.
7)  More than 50% of your status updates involve boot camp, the gym, or working out.
8)  You know all the regulars at the gym…
9)  You find yourself doing boot camp workouts on days when there isn’t one scheduled.
10)  You have begged, badgered, or nagged your trainer to a hold group session because the boot camp sessions were too far apart.
11)  You regularly walk with a limp.
12)  You’re afraid that when you brush your hair in the morning you won’t be able to lift your arms.
13)  You frequently use stairs backwards.
14)  You’ve bribed someone to do your laundry to avoid using stairs all together.
15)  You have a fear of dropping things because your legs are too sore to bend.
16)  Your leisurely hikes turn into rock climbing sessions.
17)  You find yourself having difficulty with simple tasks like opening a car door, getting into the car, or turning the steering wheel after your workouts.
18)  You’ve done back-to-back boot camp sessions.
19)  You are constantly trying to find new ways to add protein to your diet.
20)  You own multiple items of clothing with a boot camp logo.
21)  You got a bunch of exercise equipment/apparel for Christmas- and got really excited about it.
22)  Your workout apparel is more expensive or nicer looking than your regular wardrobe.
23)  You have conversations about the “green monster” that don’t involve baseball.
24)  You think a 10+ mile obstacle race involving freezing water, fire, difficult terrain, obstacles, and electrocution sounds like a good time.
25)  You don’t think one workout in a day is enough.
26)  You spend more time with your boot camp family than you actual family.
27)  Missing a session of boot camp ruins your day.
28)  When you listen to the radio you evaluate each song’s potential for your workout playlist.
29)  Missing long periods of boot camp triggers bouts of depression.
30)  You find yourself evaluating objects for their potential as exercise equipment (examples: furniture movers, window sills, radiator covers, tree stumps, etc)
31)  You get delighted by your ability to lift and carry heavy objects such as firewood, tires, or bags of dog food.
32)  You don’t think puking during a workout is an excuse to stop.
33)  Pushing to the point of feeling light-headed or losing focus is a regular occurrence for you.
34)  You’ve woken up in the middle of the night after a workout in pain because you moved in your sleep, or have had to prop yourself up on your elbows to roll over in bed
35)  You do reps in multiples of 100 instead of 5 or 10.
36)  You refer to “can’t” as “the dirty ‘c’ word” and have removed it from your vocabulary.
37)  You have either done or forced someone else to do burpees as a punishment.
38)  You’ve considered being part of a boot camp flash mob.
39)  You can’t understand why everyone doesn’t find boot camp as awesome as you do.
40)  You finish your boot camp workouts with the feeling that you can conquer anything. (ie. boot camp gets you high)
41)  You’ve referred to your fellow boot campers as your other family.
42)  You don’t think a national holiday is an excuse not to have boot camp.
43)  You are incapable or backing down from a challenge.
44)  You’ve been bitten by a box…
45)  Your first thought of ninja or superman is an exercise and not a person.
46)  You’ve noticed people look at you like you are insane when you share your workouts.
47)  You’ve considered stealing a cane, wheelchair, or scooter from an elderly person after a workout because you thought you needed it more than he/she did.
48)  You’ve “borrowed” your child’s jump rope to practice.
49)  You find yourself  yelling “NO EXCUSES” at people.
50)  You couldn’t imagine life without boot camp.

Pushing Limits

“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something.

You can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”

-Arnold Schwarzenegger

That, my friends, was my post boot camp workout session.  It was the workout from last Thursday, which I missed due to my work schedule.  Mike, the instructor, offered for anyone who missed the session to stay to “make it up”.  I was pretty miserable through the first work out.  My IT bands were bugging me, and I pretty much felt like throwing up the whole time- not actually that unusual for me at boot camp.   Call me crazy, but ten minutes after the workout was over I figured “what the hell, may as well see how much of it I can get through”.  After all, I thought it would be good mental preparation for the marathon, and I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge.

So the gauntlet was thrown, and I accepted.  I offered to run home after so Adam could leave, but he agreed to stay and do it with me.  We did the 400 lunges, and Mike laughed when I high fived Adam (who was the only other person who volunteered to stay).  He asked what I was celebrating for when I had only finished the first part, and I told him “we need to celebrate the small victories in life”.  I continued through the rest of the torture workout with a smile.  The further I got in, the more my legs felt like a foreign entity.  I was having trouble getting them to maneuver where I wanted them to go, but, in a strange way, it was getting easier.  I think it was just the thought of being closer to done.  I made it through all the exercises.  Then I finished the 30 burpees Adam had left with him.  I felt bad that he stayed with me, because he hadn’t eaten and was clearly hurting- but he made it through the whole way too.  I felt stronger when I finished than I had when I started.  (Maybe I was just delirious at that point)  In fact, I think if Mike had told me to go run laps after, I would have gladly done it. lol

That workout made me feel more prepared for the marathon than any training I’ve done to date.  The whole way through I repeated my mantra “marathon runners don’t quit” in my head and it worked!  I was tired when I started, and fried by the time I finished, but I finished- in a respectable 40 minutes. Now that I am coming down from the endorphins, I’m just starting to get sore and I’m sure I’ll be hurting tomorrow.  However, it will be well worth it. 🙂

Victories and Setbacks

“I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain,
torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage. “
Friedrich Nietzsche

Life is composed of victories and setbacks.  Great victories are always eventually followed by setbacks, and setbacks by victories.  It’s all a cycle. That’s just the way of things. Keeping this in mind helps me maintain perspective.  When I’m doing well, I do my best to enjoy it knowing it won’t last; and when things get rough, I remind myself that it will pass.

In terms of my life and ongoing struggle with daily existence after trauma, I’d say I’m on the victory side of things.  However, running has fallen into the setback zone.  My entire life I have been plagued by knee problems.  As long as I’ve been walking, my knees have popped out of place. The pain and other joint issues associated with this have always limited my running.  When I started using the Vibram Five Fingers (don’t ask me why it’s “fingers” and not toes), I noticed a dramatic improvement in my joint pain.  Basically, I didn’t have any.  I was hurting all right, but it was all muscular.  Everything was going fine and dandy until last week when, deluded with my new sense of limitless, I decided to up my mileage by a full hour instead of 30 minutes.

That is how I became rudely reacquainted with the nagging pain of IT band syndrome.  It’s a running overuse injury that I am all too familiar with.  Initially, I was not aware of its reemergance due to the new location of the pain. However, when it got to the point that even gently brushing anything against my tibial tubercle (the bony knob just under your knee) caused me to jump in agony, I decided to do a google search on “lateral knee pain” and then “pain, tibial tubercle”.  What I found was my familiar nemesis IT band syndrome.  Apparently, if you continue to run when your IT band is irritated, you develop terrible point tenderness –you guessed it– at your tibial tubercle.  So after patting myself on the back for pushing IT band syndrome to new personal heights, I looked up the treatment: six weeks of rest and stretching.  This was not an acceptable option.  Six weeks of “rest” would have me in the loony bin.  I needed to exercise for my sanity sake!  More reading.. there was also a mention of strengthening weak muscle groups- this seemed more palatable.

At the moment, I am trying very hard to limit my running.  I have been spending quality time with the stair climber and doing general conditioning/strength training.  There was a moment or two that doubted I would be able to run the marathon in Oct., or ever.  Of course, then I came back to my senses and realized I would never allow myself to quit.  Plus, if I tried, my best friend Randi would assuredly put me back in line.

Everyone needs a good friend to hold a mirror up when you need it, tell you what you need to hear (even when you don’t want to hear it), and hold you accountable.  Randi has been my best friend since high school; and while I have many incredible, amazing friends who I cherish, Randi is the one I can count on to do all these things.  I, through coercion, begging, and even a little arm twisting, have convinced her to do the Diva Half Marathon with me.  I have been “encouraging” her to do the Hartford Marathon with me as well.  Every time she comes up with an excuse or says she’d never be able to run that far- I assure her that I’m convinced she can.  When her motivation starts to wane or she gets discouraged by running injuries, I do my best to encourage her (like buying her cool running gear and books for her birthday).

I have to finish that marathon, IT band syndrome or not!  I need to prove to myself I can do it.  Plus, I want to show Randi that she can do it.  After all, she is the athletic one!  I would not only be letting myself down if I quit, but also my best friend.  There’s just no way that’s going to happen.

In the meantime, I’ll be training for the NorCal Tough Mudder next month.  On this afternoon’s agenda, time at the gym with my very own personal trainer (my boyfriend Adam- the seasoned marathon runner and Tough Mudder alum)

Another night, another nightmare

“Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb but how well you bounce.” 

~Vivian Komori

Last night I dreamt I was in my ex-husband’s house.  Even though we were no longer together, I was visiting for some reason.  He had a bunch of company in the living room. including some of his brothers.  I was tired from having worked late and excused myself to go to bed.  When I left, the rest of his guests decided it was getting late and left to go home.  Enraged by the notion that I caused all his friends and family to leave early, my ex came after me upstairs and attacked me.  He wrapped his hands around my neck and squeezed for all he was worth.  I could feel myself being suffocated, gasping for air with no relief.  Then out of no where, Adam (my boyfriend) came in and stopped him.   I can’t remember much of what happened after that because I woke up.

That is just one example of the many nightmares that have kept me up at night over the past two weeks.  They typically come in cycles, but this one has been particularly long.  They don’t always feature my ex, and they are nowhere near as bad as the night terrors I had while I was with him.  However, they are bad enough to wake me up all night and leave me exhausted during the day.  On the bright side, this was the first nightmare I ever had someone come rescue me in, so maybe I’m making some progress.

Sometimes I wish I had a system reset button I could hit when this stuff happens, but instead I’ve come up with other methods (through trial and error) of dealing with it.  The hardest one if trying not to focus on or stress about the sleep deprivation because the more I fixate on it, then worse it seems to get.  Another trick I use is completely wearing myself out.  If I go through a particularly tough workout, many times that’s enough to work out the excess anxious energy.  Plus, it’s usually a great self-esteem boost!  I also try not to eat, watch TV, or use the computer right before bed (typical sleep hygiene stuff).  However, recently none of this has been particularly effective.

One thing that has changed dramatically over the past year is how much better I can deal with this situation now.  I can acknowledge that it sucks, but it doesn’t send me spiraling backward with frustration and despair like it used to.  I can reassure myself that it will be temporary, and I only need to work “X”  more days until I have another one off to attempt to catch up on sleep.  I am also more aware of my negative thinking, and the fact that it is just that.  It doesn’t make me a negative person, it’s just a sign that I’m fatigued or processing more than usual.  I am finally getting the point where I can cut myself some slack, and that is a MONUMENTAL step for me.

So, although I am currently being plagued by nightmares and had an absolutely terrible day of being run into the ground at work, I give this day an A+.  My reasoning: it sucked...A LOT, but I made it through and held it together. I didn’t get down on myself, cry, or allow myself to become completely overwhelmed.  Six months ago this day would have broke me, but today I made it through exhausted and smiling.

In other related news, I managed to drag Adam with me to the gym yesterday and conquered another 15 minutes on the stair master- and we did push ups (and by “we” I mean I and he critiqued)…  It was terrible and wonderful all at the same time. 🙂

Fatigue- My Enemy

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nothing makes me feel more stuck in a rut than coming up a against a week without restful sleep.  Even when I am really making progress at life, all it takes is a few nights of nightmares for my “inner critic” to go crazy.  Fatigue makes me vulnerable, and it is always a reality check as to just how much work I have left to do and my road to a “normal” existence. The truth is that every day I am waging war with myself.  Like the cartoon characters with a little angel and devil on each shoulder, I carry an ongoing argument in my head with my negative inner critic.  On good days, I can tune out these thoughts (generally along the lines of feeling like an isolated, negative, unlikable, damaged, worthless person).  However, a few nights of sleep deprivation sends me into a tailspin of self-deprecation.

In my life before abuse, I didn’t stress over much because I had absolute faith that things would always be okay and I would always land on me feet.  It was a rosy view of things, but every problem I ever faced had always worked itself out without too much fallout.  I figured that if I was a good person and treated other people with kindness, generosity, and respect that I would – in the grand Karma scheme of things- receive the same in return.

Over five years of psychological, emotional, and ultimately physical abuse (not only on the part of my ex-husband, but also his family- whom I loved as my own) shattered my view of that reality. It was a gut-wrenching, devastating, and absolutely heart breaking  experience. There are not words to describe the sensation of betrayal.  A group of people who professed to love and care deeply about me had used me.  I had shown them nothing but love, kindness, compassion, and generosity; and in return I was greeting with back stabbing, lies, cruelty, and manipulation.  I didn’t deserve it, and I didn’t understand how any person could be capable of treating another that way.

As much as I want to regain my rosy-colored perspective of the world again, I have found it tremendously difficult.  The whole situation wreaked havoc on me both emotionally and physically.  The thought of ever being in that place again (of feeling completely unstable) still gives me anxiety and nightmares.  It literally keeps me up at night.  Not every night, but frequently when I’m over tired or run down.

I don’t ever get upset about any of the belongs I lost in my escape from my abuser; however, I am at times resentful that a man came into my life and took my view of the world as a safe place from me.  It is the ONLY thing that I miss from before.  It wasn’t his to take, and I want it back.  I want my sense of security back.  I want to stop keeping people at arm’s length to avoid getting burned again.  I want to believe that because I am a good person, good things will happen to me.

I am getting there, but it is a process, a LONG process.  That is why every time I get into a bad sleep cycle and the negative thinking creeps in I feel like it’s no progress.  One thing I have regained for certain,though, is my determination (running has been crucial in rebuilding both my determination and self-esteem), and I am determined to let go of worrying and focus on the positive change I want to be in the world. 🙂  I am also determined to get some sleep tonight!

Goal for tomorrow- short leisurely run with Penny, and maybe some gym time.

“I am woman! I am invincible! I am pooped!”


“I am woman!  I am invincible!  I am pooped!”

  ~Author Unknown

The amazing view on my run today.

Today I continued my quest toward running a full marathon!  I figured it would be a good day for a long run because I have not run much this week and will be working the next two days without a lot of other opportunity to get mileage in.  Earlier this week I had attempted a light, fast paced run; but my body was not cooperating, and I ended up at the gym instead.  I was a little disappointed, but got some solace in the fact that I survived 15-whole-minutes on the stair climber- which I hate more even more than push ups (and that is saying a lot!).

None-the-less, I wanted to make up for my less than par workout and gain some ground.  I got up early and straightened up the house a little before setting out.  It was still cool and looked like it was shaping up to be a beautiful day.  I headed over to the Bridle Trail, a relatively flat, gravel path not far from my house.  I had not been there in several months, and thought it would be a nice change in scenery.  The trail runs through the woods, so it stays well shaded and keeps the temperature significantly cooler than running on the road.  I was actually a little chilly when I started, but quickly warmed up as I settled into my pace.  I chose my beat up asics over my vibrams because I don’t like running over gravel (or pavement) in toe shoes.

Not long into my run, I was greeted by another runner with a happily meandering chocolate lab in toe.  His companion lagged behind him enough to keep me company for a while before he wandered off again with his owner.  I made a mental note to start bringing my lab, Penny, out on more of my short runs.  (I used to run with her regularly; however, now that she is getting older, her endurance is not what it used to be. )

I had set the timer on my phone (which I use as an ipod) to alarm after an hour and forty-five minutes figuring I would just turn around and run back.  I hoped to be able to cover at least 15 miles in that amount of time.  For most of the way out I felt terrific.  I soaked in the beautiful views and wondered why anyone would run on the road when they could have a much more peaceful and splendid backdrop.  I was so absorbed in my surroundings that it felt like no effort at all, and I started to think that running a marathon would not be that difficult.  I frequently joke to Adam that “running on a flat surface is easy. I could run forever it’s flat.”

I was just beginning to believe my jest was true when I brushed my hand across my leg and realized I couldn’t feel it.  In fact, I could not feel anything from the small of my back down.  I wondered if this was what an epidural felt like.  Like any other endurance athlete (and I use that term loosely), I figured that if I ignored it long enough, it would just go away.  Besides, I wasn’t having any pain.  I tuned it out and kept going, but it didn’t go away.  Instead, it got worse.  Then my back and legs started to hurt.  I looked at the time.  I had only been running an hour!  This was disheartening.  I wondered if my asics were a bad choice.  Yet, I kept running because it was not just about the mileage- it was about training my body to keep going when it didn’t want to.  I knew I would have to get used to this feeling if I was going to get through over 26 miles.

By the time I was ready to turn around and head back, it was becoming increasingly more difficult to move my legs.  I was afraid to stop and walk, convinced that I would not be able to get my body to run again.  I began to doubt my ability to complete this task, and kicked myself for adding an additional 15 minutes each way.  At times, I was distracted by butterflies and bright yellow birds who seemed to follow me along with curiosity.  There were also a wide variety of wild flowers in white, purple, and yellows abutting the tree line.  I tried to concentrate on the scenery: a lovely pond, tall fields, small cottages.  However, my legs were aching and numb.  I didn’t think it was right that they could be both at the same time.  I kept plodding and hoping the time would go by quickly.

When I finally reached a stretch of the trail I remembered from early in my run I was elated- only to be crushed again by the long stretch before the next familiar site.  I thought it was funny how quickly I went from feeling like I could run forever to feeling like I had been running forever.  I dreaded the idea of doing this for over 5 hours and began to question why I ever thought it would be a good idea.  Maybe I was capable of running 10 or 15 K thanks to my vibrams, but this was starting to seem insane.

Then, before I knew it, I was back at the 2 mile mark.  I remembered how I used to struggle to run from my car to this spot and back when I was first breaking in my toe shoes.  Now it seemed like such a small distance!  Over and over in my head I chanted “TWO MORE MILES, JUST TWO MORE MILES!!!!”  I kept pushing; my body kept trying to quit.  I wanted to finish running, not walking.  I continued to drag myself until the sites became more familiar; and, finally,  I knew I was almost there.  I dragged myself all the way back to the car, and a funny thing happened.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t fall over.  I didn’t even throw up!  Instead I drove myself home and tried to stretch- until my lap was filled with a very happy lab and bulldog.

it got a little muddy

another view from the trail

You can’t always get want you want…

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need”

The Rolling Stones

Yesterday I completed the last 15 K of my YES Endurance Race journey.  Adam and I had both been sick all week, so I was terrified that I would not be able to finish (although I told Adam I would drag myself across the finish line if I had to).  Reducing the mileage was not an option.  I wanted to complete the longest distance offered.  Anything else would not feel like a challenge.  I had been training for weeks, and I didn’t want to sell myself short.  Unfortunately, the day before the race my throat was ON FIRE.  I had taken decongestants all day to try to relieve the sinus pressure.  That night I had nightmares about not being able to compete (and by compete I mean finish, as I have no delusions about my skill level at running).

When I awoke on the morning of race day, I was relieved to find I was feeling a little better.  Adam and I both got up early, took our decongestants, and had some hot tea to soothe or throats before heading out.  The weather for the race was beautiful, but a bit hot.  Luckily the humidity had broke!  It was not as crowded as at some of the other venues, but there was still a good turn out.  I was one of 7 women who had signed up for the 15 K option.  I recognized a few familiar faces, as the race has developed  bit of a cult following.

After a few minutes idle chit-chat, all the runners approached the start line, and soon we were off.  My body fought me the entire fist 5K, but I continued to force myself to run.  However, by the time I hit the steep hills my legs were giving out.  I wondered if I could survive 10 K let alone 15!  I kept reminding myself that “what goes up must come down” and that this stretch of hills had to end eventually.  I knew getting downhill would give my legs a chance to recover, and that (with any luck) the course would get easier.  Still, it was one thing to think it and another to force my achy, virus ridden body to do it.

It’s funny something as simple as a cold can really affect your running performance.  I was aware that the 15 K would be a struggle for me, having done a few lengthy runs on my own without hills as tough as the YES series offers.  Yet, I did not expect for my symptoms to affect my running as much as they did.  Frankly, it took almost all the fun out of it.  As much as I tried to find my rhythm and enjoy the scenery, my body felt like it was burning up, and I was having trouble breathing.  I sincerely wanted to quit- which is actually not unusual for me.  It generally happens at about mile 4 when I hit the first “wall”.  I had experienced it enough to expect it and to know that I would feel better if I push through it.  However, this was not my typical 4 mile wall; this was like hitting the wall for the whole first half of the race.

When I caught up to Adam, I could see that he was as miserable as I was.  This initially made me feel a little better;  but when I lost him a short distance later where the course split, I became concerned that he was sicker than he looked.  I wondered if he had opted for the 10 K path instead of the 15.  Then, as I had hoped, the course got slightly easier.  The hills were less steep, and I could finally feel my body settling into a rhythm.  I was still miserable, exhausted, and my legs felt like lead, but I wanted to finish.  I thought about how far I’d come, not just in the current race, but through the series.  I had already covered so many miles.  I knew that if I wanted to conquer the marathon in Oct. that I was going to have to get used to pushing my body through fatigue and exhaustion.  I couldn’t stomach the idea of quitting, no matter how enticing it seemed at the moment.  Besides, it was a long walk back to the start and would take significantly longer than just running and getting it over with.  Plus, I really wanted that finisher medal!

By the time I hit 10 K, I was pondering whether to take another shot blok or hold out a little longer when my body gave me the answer.  Too tired to lift my feet over the rocks, I tripped and fell flat on my face.  It took me a minute to get myself up and going again.  I so badly wanted to be finished.  I was desperately hoping there were no more steep hills ahead, as I was convinced they would be the end of me.   I was also terrified that I would lose the trail again, as I had already managed to get off track once and had to double back.  However, the further I ran, the more attainable the finished seemed.  Then before I knew it, I saw the familiar path back to the start, followed by a cheering crowd.  I sailed out the woods to the finish, elated to have found it at last.  When I looked I at my time, I didn’t believe it.  I was certain I missed a loop to the course.  Then the race organizer announced that I had won the female ultra point series (they tally the number of people you  beat and multiply it by the number of races- I won mostly owing to the fact that I was the only female to race all 4).  I was in disbelief, and then overwhelmed by dread.  I didn’t see any of the women that had been ahead of me.  I must have missed a loop.  I didn’t want to watch the other finishers, afraid I would see them and confirm my fear.  I was so terrified of being disqualified.  I didn’t even care about the ultra title.  I just wanted to be counted as a finisher so I could get the medal I worked for so hard.

They never came.  A few people finished after me, but not the ones I’d been following.  The last of the group was Adam.  He got loud applause, as a rumor had already been spread through the crowd that he was running with the flu.  I wondered if someone had seen him throw up on the course to arrive at that conclusion.  I knew he had to be sick not to have been way ahead of me.  We stayed briefly for the award  ceremony, but I never got the medal.  I wish I could say this didn’t bother me; but, in truth, I was devastated.  Once I got into the car, I cried (I’d like to think this was in large part due to a combination of PMS and exhaustion).  I felt cheated.  I pushed myself through pain and misery, through four races for a total of 46 kilometers and felt like I had nothing to show for it.  Sure, I had the experiences; but I wanted something tangible that I could put in a frame and look at on a bad day to remind myself of what I achieved.  Adam tried to reassure me that they would probably send it in the mail.  Despite the fact that this made complete logical sense, I didn’t believe him.  I thought to myself how silly it was that I would rather have a cheap medal than prize money and free race entry to an exotic race in Ireland.  Then I thought about the Rolling Stones lyrics about how “you can’t always get what you want…you get what you need”.   I realized that maybe, even though I really wanted a medal, what I needed was the experience of another challenge.  I was slightly discouraged at the idea of a 100 K race.  However, when I got home and looked it up online, I saw that they have a 50 K option, and that 2 nights lodging and a shuttle from the airport are included in the registration fee.  I wondered if this was part of the “free entry”.  Perhaps there is a trip to Ireland in my future…

Cannoli Pie…Breakfast of Champions

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”

William Barclay

My newest inspirational running shirt 🙂

I have putting off my weekly long run for the past two weeks, so this morning I knew it was time to bite the bullet , get my butt in gear, and up my mileage.  The recent heat wave has taken a toll on my motivation to work out, especially with the sporadic use of air conditioning at my local gym.  With the plan of a three-day road trip to Tennessee looming, it was now or never; and putting it off would only make for an incredibly stir crazy car ride. 

I’m the type of person who goes through what could best be described as withdrawal symptoms when I don’t get in a good work out too many days in a row.  For this reason, I was dreading  the idea of being cooped up in a car for days on end with little opportunity to even get out and stretch.  I was hoping that a long run would” get the wiggles out” and make the drive more bearable. 

Initially, I wanted to get in 10 miles, which is the furthest mileage I’ve achieved to date.   However, given the involuntary three-day hiatus ahead of me, I figured “what the hell, may as well push it to the and try for 12 or more.”  With no functional GPS device at hand, I decided I would try to run at least two and a half hours and hope it was more than 10 miles.  I woke up with the determination necessary to accomplish the task, but, admittedly, significantly less enthusiasm.  As much as I LOVE running, I have to confess that the idea of doing it for anything more than an hour feels a lot like work and more than two hours brings on an all out sensation of dread.  In order to prepare myself for the long, arduous task ahead I opened the fridge and scoured for something that would not induce vomiting in the sweltering heat. 

I have tried countless pre-running meals from cereal to yogurt, to protein shakes, to fruit, and even salad.  Generally. I find the result the same.  Within 30 minutes of starting a run, my stomach is growling and my focus goes to mush.  That is unless I am running with my boyfriend, Adam, in which case, I’m already starving by the time we set out due to the additional amount of time required for him to get ready. (He runs on California time…I could afford to be more like him)  So all that being said, I reached for the cannoli pie.  Yes, cannoli pie…breakfast of champions!  I rationalized it as follows:  it was loaded with calories, and there were carbs, dairy,  and even chocolate.  How could it be a bad choice?  Besides didn’t I deserve it for all the hard work and torture I was about to embark on?  I mean I practically already earned it, right?  I had a piece with a glass of water and headed out the door.

I ran to my favorite park and stuck mainly on the trails.  Surprisingly, the cannoli cake stayed down.  In fact, I felt pretty good, and remarkably made it through over two and half hours of running without so much as a rumble in my stomach.  I think I may have found my pre-long distance run meal (just kidding…sort of)  I was also pretty pleased to find all my training was paying off as, even in the heat, the run felt significantly easier than my previous 10 mile run. So, I am now halfway to my goal of running a marathon, and I owe it to the cannoli pie. 

When I got back home I had salad and humus for lunch, partly out of guilt for my indulgent breakfast.  Then a few hours later when my stomach was growling again, I went back and had another piece of cannoli pie and savored every bite.

It all started with a pair of shoes…

Marylin Monroe once said “give a woman the right pair of shoes and she can conquer the world”.

Vibram running shoes

My "ugly" shoes have grown on me. Now they are always close by. 🙂

My boyfriend had been on my case for several weeks that I needed to switch over to vibram running shoes.  I wasn’t paying him much attention.  I knew my limitations.  From the time I started high school, I had a multitude of orthopedists explain to me exactly why I wasn’t built to run and shouldn’t do it.  They told me that my bone alignment was wrong, my arches were flat, my IT bands were too tight, I needed orthotics and knee replacements.  One particularly delightful fellow (and by delightful I mean arrogant and dismissive) even explained that women, in general, are not built for running.  He thought I should not only stop, but also avoid stairs and knee bends greater than 30 degrees.  I have patellar subluxation (a fancy way of saying my kneecaps pop out-of-place when I move), so running for me was always associated with pain.  However, the thought of not running was pretty much on par with not breathing in my mind.  I tried physical therapy, ice, the whirlpool,  medication, tape, stabilizing shoes, and cross training before, I ultimately learned to tune it out and run through it.  However, I was still limited in my mileage.

All that being said, how could a 6’2″ naturally athletic marathon runner possibly think that eliminating the support in a shoe would help me- the orthopedic disaster?  It sounded insane, but I had nothing to lose.  He was so confident that I would love them, that he even bought me my first pair.  I teased him at the time that he was just afraid of looking ridiculous by himself.   Nonetheless, I was now the owner of an ugly pair of toe shoes with a date set to test them out.

The day we planned our inaugural run I had done a particularly hard work out at the gym and didn’t expect much.  We headed to a  flat, gravel trail and started jogging at a slow place.  We were two miles into our run before I felt any pain in my knees, which was remarkable for me.  By three miles, my calves and ankle muscles were SCREAMING.  I was hurting in places I had never hurt before. We did another mile and called it a day.  The following day at work I passed out.  Yup, out cold- like dreaming and then rudely awakened to a room full of people staring…   Maybe I overdid it a little.  My calves were like jello for days, making walking difficult and stairs near impossible.  It was amazing none the less.  I had accomplished something I wasn’t supposed to do in shoes with absolutely no support.

Overcoming the physical barriers was only part of the sense of triumph.  As a survivor of domestic abuse, I had suffered from crippling anxiety and nightmares for well over a year.  Just waking up in the morning was enough to provoke a  sense of the world closing in around me .   I was miserable, exhausted, and completely drained both physically and emotionally.  I never reached the point where I wanted to die, but I certainly wanted to disappear on multiple occasions when facing another day seemed like too tremendous an effort to stomach.  I saw counselors, therapists, and even a psychiatrist who all reassured me that I was experiencing a “completely normal reaction to a traumatic experience”.  It certainly didn’t feel normal, or even remotely acceptable.  I was prescribed medications to help me sleep; but the first one made me completely sedated and irritable.  The second one caused me to outright hallucinate (which made nightmares seem not so bad in comparison).  By the time an antipsychotic called seroquel was suggested I threw in the towel and fired the shrink.

That was when I found Susan Omilian (creator of the My Avenging Angel Workshops) and decided to attend one of her 2 part sessions.  I desperately wanted to feel “normal” again and move on with my life.  I knew there was a happier and more carefree person inside, but didn’t know how to let her out.  Like she has with so many other women, Susan allowed me to get in touch with the part of myself that wasn’t “damaged”.  She helped me rediscover what I am passionate about and establish short and long-term goals for myself.  She and the other women in the group also made me realize that I was not alone, and it was the first time since my world turned upside down that someone told me I was going to be okay and I actually believed it.

So in a sense, that 4 miles was more meaningful to me than any other distance I had ever achieved.  I was redefining myself and my limits, and I didn’t stop.   I registered for my first 10 K with my boyfriend.  It was last-minute and a distance I hadn’t run or even been able to run in years.  However, it happened to be a trail race at one of my favorite cross-country venues from high school; and I (in a viewing myself as the center of the universe sort of way) took at as a positive sign.  During the run, I was convinced that if I did manage to finish it would be well behind everyone else;  yet, that was not the case at all.  I not only finished, but also managed to finish ahead of one other runner.   It was a slow pace, but I was moving and moving pain free at that.  Plus, it was a great experience to realize that most of the people I was running with were struggling as much as I was.  Luckily, that race was part of a 4 race series and I was hooked.  I did the second and third 10K and then decided it was time to set my sights on something higher.  The final race offered a 15K option, so I signed up and kicked up my training.  Then I registered for a Tough Mudder in NorCal with my boyfriend and the Diva Half marathon in Long Island.  I was excited at the opportunity to combine two things I loved: running and helping other people.  I started a bottle and can drive to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, then I approached Susan Omilian about using the Diva Half Marathon as a way to raise money and awareness for other victims of domestic violence.

Currently my plan to use all my future half and full marathons to raise money for CT-ALIVE (the CT Alliance for Victims of Violence and the Families).  I would encourage other runners to find a cause to run for as well.  It is a great way to give back and an opportunity to make the whole experience richer.

So, that pretty much brings us up to present date!  If you hadn’t figured it out yet, my purpose for this blog is to encourage other people, especially women, to get out there and do whatever it is that makes you feel alive.    I love running because I feel like it’s the only time I get to be alone and selfish and not feel guilty for it.  It’s my quiet time. Plus, it’s hard to waste energy being anxious when you are using every ounce to push up a tough hill.

I think many people discount themselves thinking they can’t run, and that women specifically short change themselves instead of realizing what tremendous inner strength they possess.  Distance running is a women’s sport- especially ultra running- because women are built to endure better than men.  They are the glue that holds their families together.  They deliver babies. Running a few miles is no big deal compared to that!

That is why I am here to tell you to get out and run because  if I can do it, you can too!